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Irrigation, fertilization, and pruning during shemitah

Rabbi Dr. Yoel Friedemann

I have three questions about shemitah:
1) Can we use a fertilizer dispenser connected to a computerized irrigation system to release fertilizer to perforated planters with fruit trees and ornamental plants, such as roses and other perennials, growing under the open sky?

2) Is it possible to water plants as much as we desire, employing an irrigation computer, beyond the minimum needed to keep the plant alive?

3) Pruning: Is it permissible to prune roses, grape vines, citrus trees, and other flowering plants such as petunias, geraniums, etc. during the shemitah year? Failure to prune or trim certain plants can cause damage. It is not always sufficient to perform deep trimming before shemitah. Pruning and trimming are required all year round, such as with roses and grapevines. Petunias might not produce flowers and can even wilt. What should I do?

Eating wild grasses during the shemitah year

Rabbi Ehud Ahituv

Is it permissible to eat wild grasses during the shemitah year (bull mallow, nettle, etc.)? Are they considered sefichin? Do they have kedushat shevi'it?

Shemitah Guides for the private garden

Rabbi David Eigner

I searched the website and I couldn't find a comprehensive guide on the laws of shemitah for the private garden. Does such a guide exist? I'd appreciate the link.

Community gardens during the shemitah year

Rabbi David Eigner

Good evening,
I live in a students' village and we are setting up a community garden in our neighborhood. We are trying to start it now to prepare for shemitah next year. We were wondering how we should go about planting and caring for our garden next year: how should we prepare for shemitah this year? What about tending to it during the shemitah year: what may we do in the communal garden (that belongs to the municipality)? Can Arab neighbors work in it? Thank you!

Planting for water purification

Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy Amichay

I recently began working at a company that builds ecological swimming pools (eco pools) and ornamental pools. The water passes through large planters inside the pool containing tuff, gravel, and organic material where aquatic plants and ornamental plants grow (not edible plants), cleansing the water. These pools and purification systems are outdoors. Furthermore, there is a need for work in an open hothouse (roofless) to prepare new aquatic plant seedlings in special planters from existing shoots, and plant them in the pool garden.

It is possible that there will be a need to uproot plants around the pool to set up the pumps and replant them after the completion of the installation process. It is also possible that it will be necessary to plant flowers around the pools as well. In order to advance at work, it is necessary to commit to work for at least two years. I was wondering what the status of these melachot are during shemitah that will begin next year.

Repotting during shemitah

Rabbi David Eigner

Is it permissible to put a plant in a new planter when the old planter broke?

Detached platforms during shemitah (2)

Rabbi David Eigner

Dear Rabbi,
(1) During the shemitah year, do hydroponically grown crops need to grow in a "building" with a roof, walls, and a platform detaching is from the ground underneath?
(2) We want to build a hothouse that is a detached platform. How should I guide those constructing the hothouse (how high should the plants be above the ground, what is the thickness of the detaching material, which material should be used for the walls and roof, etc.). Thank you!

Educational gardens during shemitah (2)

Rabbi David Eigner

Dear Rabbi,

In continuation to your previous answer on permissible actions during the shemitah year, I wanted to ask as follows:

  1. The students learn about the structure of plants. Is it possible to transport plants from place to place (both outside the classroom or from classroom to classroom) to explain it to them? Can I tear off leaves from the plant (please explain)?
  2. May I sprout beans? In which way is it permissible?
  3. As part of biology class, is it permissible to plant and cultivate a garden? Is it permissible to plant herbs in a garden? If not, is there a permissible alternative?
  4. Is it permissible, as part of the lesson, to bring plants into the classroom to study under a microscope?
  5. I would like to know if there is a booklet on gardening according to halachah during the shemitah year that is appropriate for school-aged children.

Heter mechirah at agricultural schools

Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy Amichay

Is it possible, and is it proper, to sell part of the area of the school's fields to a non-Jew, or, alternatively, to assign the responsibility to a non-Jew so the students can work the field at school during the upcoming shemitah year? We have non-Jewish teachers at our school.

Educational and community gardens during shemitah

Rabbi David Eigner

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege to be involved in gardening as part of a community project and as part of a school project as a teacher of agriculture. What do I do next year during the shemitah year?!?! I planned on planting on a detached platform, but I saw on your website that it is only permissible for a major need and for educational purposes. I will explain about two of the projects I'm involved in and I would appreciate knowing if they are permissible, or which elements of them are:

  1. The community garden in a neighborhood in crisis. We have tried to set up a community garden for several years, with many ups and downs. Finally, this year, the project took off. It is an educational community project, which gives hope to the neighbors and solves many neighborhood problems.
  2. I am a teacher of agriculture. I teach various grades in a mixed religious and secular elementary school. We mostly plant seasonal vegetables, hoe, and cultivate many areas on the school grounds. We also have a hothouse. Is it permissible to do anything in this situation?

This is not a financial issue for me. The first case is a project that would otherwise be buried and will be very difficult to resuscitate if temporarily discontinued. The second gives to and educates children. I would like to hear the rationale involved in the answer.